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J Infect. 2005 Feb;50(2):125-9.

T-lymphocyte subsets and eosinophil counts in acute and convalescence chickenpox infection: a household study in Guinea-Bissau.

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  • 1Projecto de Sa├║de de Bandim, Danish Epidemiology Science Centre, Bissau, Guinea-Bissau.



To investigate changes in T-lymphocyte subsets, CD4+ and CD8+ lymphocytes, WBC, lymphocytes and eosinophil granulocytes during the acute and the convalescence phase of chickenpox infection.


During an epidemic of chickenpox, a household study was performed in a semi-urban area of Bissau, Guinea-Bissau. Varicella antibodies were determined to assess diagnostic certainty. To determine the timing of changes, haematological markers and T-cell subsets (immunocytochemical method) were analysed in the acute phase, 0-9 days after the rash, and in the convalescence phase, 35-45 days after the rash.


In the acute phase, the CD4 percentage, CD4/CD8 ratio, and neutrophil percentage declined, whereas the CD8 percentage, WBC, CD4 and CD8 counts, and the lymphocyte percentage increased over the same period, most markedly for the CD8 count. The eosinophil percentage increased significantly with time from onset of rash. Between acute and convalescence samples there was an increase in CD4 percentage, CD4/CD8 ratio, and CD4 count, and a marked decrease in CD8 percentage and CD8 count. The changes were not significant for WBC, lymphocyte percentage, neutrophil percentage, and monocyte percentage, but eosinophil percentage was significantly increased 5-7 weeks after the onset of rash. The haematological changes were related to number of pox and intensity of exposure; a high eosinophil percentage was associated with less severe disease, i.e. less pox.


We report significant changes in T-lymphocyte subsets during the acute phase of chickenpox infection, including a suppression of CD4+ T-cells and an augmentation of CD8+ T-cells. The levels were normalized 1 month later except for eosinophils, and we found no persistent CD4 suppression after chickenpox. An increased number of eosinophils in the peripheral blood was demonstrated early in the acute phase of the disease, and remained elevated in the convalescence phase.

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